Planting Fear in the Harvest Season

The Israeli occupation goes to great lengths to ensure Palestinians live in a constant state of fear, but deterrence will only work for so long as Zionist lies come to light
three young children stand under a stone archway while a group of soldiers approach in the distance.

Fear is what prevents us from pursuing the things we love, expressing our beliefs, and speaking up. It arises in the face of potential harm, whether physical, emotional, or psychological, real or imagined. The Zionist movement has employed this tactic since 1948 in Palestine. Many people abandoned their villages upon hearing about the actions of the Zionists in other places, aiming to instill fear in their minds.

Since 1948, there hasn’t been much change in Israeli tactics, but the recent genocide in Gaza revealed the extent of the brutality and violent acts committed by the Israeli occupation forces throughout Palestine, particularly in Gaza. However, these atrocities are not confined to Gaza; similar incidents have been witnessed in Jenin, Tulkarm, and al Khalil/Hebron in the West Bank.

Starting from 7 October, protests erupted across historical Palestine, initially some of the largest demonstrations in years. Unfortunately, they were short-lived. Palestinians in Israel faced imprisonment and serious accusations, such as threatening national security, collaborating with anti-state individuals, or planning acts of terror.

Similar situations unfolded in the West Bank, where thousands were detained without clear charges, subjected to brutal beatings, humiliation, starvation, or deprived of adequate food and water. These harrowing stories were shared by those who experienced them directly or by lawyers in contact with the affected individuals, as visits are severely restricted, even for organizations like the Red Cross.

Apart from personal accounts, footage from the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) serves as substantial evidence of the treatment of Palestinian prisoners. Soldiers have shared on social media how they humiliate detainees, forcing them into nakedness, handcuffing, blindfolding, and subjecting them to severe beatings.

The fear is not merely of death itself, as eloquently expressed by my eight-year-old niece: “I want to die peacefully, not by a bullet or a rocket.” It’s the fear of losing loved ones, jobs, and the essence of life, of ceasing to live despite being alive. Witnessing the torture of loved ones while feeling helpless intensifies this fear.

After enduring months of aggression, the desire to leave grew strong, fueled by the reluctance to live in a tent and witness the forced evacuation of family without knowing where to go. The belief that if such actions were possible in Gaza without intervention, they could occur in the West Bank proved true. Posters thrown at protesters and handed to shopkeepers in al Khalil/Hebron’s old city conveyed threats and warnings against resistance, citing Gaza as an example.

Despite their success in suppressing demonstrations in the West Bank, the IOF’s criminal activities persist. They continue to arrest, detain, and subject people to searches based on their phone content and news preferences. The intimidation extends to physical humiliation, with incidents of individuals being forced to walk almost naked through checkpoints due to their phone content. These incidents happen on a daily basis although most of them haven’t been documented because some people fear sharing them will expose them to more violence. 

I can share from my own experience. I live next to an Israeli military base where soldiers conduct daily patrols, stop cars, and perform searches. They also detain individuals, taking them to the military base. Cars are not permitted to move unless they are at a considerable distance, around 20 meters, as any closer might be considered a threat, potentially which might escalate very quickly. Even though they are aware that our house is nearby, they point their rifles at us, creating a palpable sense of fear. 

Last month, soldiers intercepted us as we were leaving our house to take my father to the doctor. Given my father’s pain, we requested permission to proceed, as we are ‘normally’ required to do. However, their response this time was aggressive, including yelling and cursing. The soldiers ordered us to hand over the car keys, which they callously threw onto the street. Hearing my sister utter “Astaghfirullah,” (I seek God’s forgiveness) they intensified their aggression, pushing forcefully against the window and yelling. The fear was overwhelming, as we worried they might break the glass or something even worse.

While such experiences might seem trivial compared to others, they are undeniably frightening. At the same time, they do not deter individuals from going out and trying to live each day to the fullest. People may stay scared but not silent. The four responses to fear—fight, flight, freeze, and fawn—remain relevant. Despite ongoing oppression, Palestinians are determined to resist, either by seeking freedom or fighting for dignity.

Also, the world is watching. Maybe the immediate effects of this aggression aren’t very clear, but in the long term, people will pass their thoughts and ideas to the next generation. The world will not accept the Zionist lies and propaganda anymore. This is the work of education that many Palestinians, CPT, and other organizations have been doing for a long time. The truth, despite attempts at distortion, will eventually come to light. As Dinos Christianopoulos aptly stated, “They tried to bury us; they didn’t know we are seeds.” It is now time to harvest those seeds.

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